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Solution: Critical Area Planting

Critical Area Planting:  Planting grass, legumes or other vegetation to protect small, badly eroding areas.


How it Works

Photo of critical area planting.

Permanent vegetation stabilizes areas such as gullies, over-grazed hillsides or terrace backslopes. While the primary goal is erosion control, the vegetation can also serve as nesting cover for birds and small animals.


  • Other soil conservation measures may be needed above the critical area to ensure stabilization. Sometimes, other conservation practices will be sufficient to stabilize a badly eroding area.
  • Consider whether the area will serve as nesting cover, and select plantings accordingly. Native grasses and wildflowers add beauty and wildlife.
  • Bare slopes or areas disturbed during construction should be mulched to provide temporary protection.
  • Annual grasses may be needed until permanent vegetation is established. Consider oats or a similar nurse crop in severely eroded areas. (Mow oats before they head out and mow high to avoid clipping the permanent vegetation.)
  • Lime and fertilizer may be needed before planting.


  • Permanently exclude livestock from steep slopes.
  • In areas where grazing will be allowed, do not allow grazing for a year after planting, and prevent overgrazing once permanent cover is established.
  • Delay mowing until July 15 to protect ground-nesting birds.
  • Native grasses may benefit from periodic burning, which stimulates new growth and controls competing plants.


Questions?  Ask a Conservationist!